After the very big and quite successful World Congress of the IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research) in Belgrade, Serbia, (the program is available here and the book of abstracts here) and the executive committee meeting after it, I had an afternoon to spend on my own. With my camera and tripod and the same yellow outfit I wore in Daegu, I headed directly to the park next to the Museum of Contemporary Art where we had a big party on Thursday night. I remembered seeing a small tree suitable to sit in at the border of the large lawn outside the museum on the other side of river Sava, and there it was, right next to the parking lot. The tree was one of many of its kind, a species quite unknown to me. The taller trees on the shore were some sort of poplars, but these small trees covered with puffy pepper-looking fruits I had never seen before. There were quite a few of them; all the smaller, yellowish trees in these images are of the same kind, although only one of them had a trunk with a place to sit in.
After my session, on returning from the park I asked the reception sit in the hotel, googled trees in Belgrade and so on, to no avail. Finally I found an image of something similar, albeit reddish, by looking for dried flowers in Finnish and that way I came to a whole group of plants and trees called lantern trees. There are several types, The Chilean Lantern tree, the Chinese Lantern tree, a creeper of the family Solanaceae related to the tomato and the potato and so on. Most lantern trees have colorful fruits, and these were yellowish-green, but perhaps they will turn read later in the summer. And although I did not think of it at first, these trees probably had flowers earlier this summer. To put it simply: plants change their appearance over the year! And that should not come as a surprise to me, living in the north. Nevertheless I was not sure exactly what this specific tree is called, so I decided to call it a lantern tree.
The video will be uploaded on the RC here The video still is from the beginning of the 15 minute session, when the sun was burning bright, but very soon there were some clouds covering it providing a relaxing shade. Since I was not there, behind the camera to adjust the light, most of the video is rather dull and dark. Despite the image of the tree being framed as rather wide to include more of the tree, its foliage is nevertheless not included. Some snapshots of the tree and its fruits taken after the session will give a better idea of what kind of tree it is:
After attending the PSi #24 conference in Daegu, Korea, I had one day, or morning, to spend in Daegu before heading back to Seoul and Helsinki. Pilvi Porkola from the project How to do things with performance, with whom we made a presentation, returned home with her son a day earlier. My plan was to take a walk to Dalseong Park to see if I could find a suitable tree to sit in for a while, and I asked a colleague from the conference who stayed in the guesthouse, Megan Evans, if she would be interested in visiting the park and looking after the camera behind my back while I was sitting in the tree. And she agreed, so in relatively fresh and sunny weather we walked there and followed path around the park up on the ancient fortifications. It was actually Megan who noticed a possible tree, which I had not noticed and I immediately agreed, because most of the trees were either to old and tall or too young. At first I thought this tree might be too young as well, that is, too weak to carry my weight, but on closer examination it proved quite strong. I had my pale pink woollen scarf with me, but for some reason the yellow clothing I happened to wear seemed more appropriate for the circumstances. Megan would sit on the nearby bench, keep an eye on the camera and perhaps restart it, if for some reason it would stop unexpectedly, as it sometimes does. But this time all went well, and I sat approximately eleven minutes, listening to the birds, the traffic and the amused passersby. At the guesthouse I downloaded the images from the camera and on the train to Seoul I edited the material into a one-image video ”In Dalseong Park” (11 min), which is available on the RC: ”In Dalseong Park”. I named the video thus because I did not recognize the tree. It had some small berries, like miniature cherries, but looked otherwise unfamiliar. It would be very difficult to get its species verified, so I decided to accept that it was a stranger, albeit a rather friendly one. Here below are some stills from the beginning and end of the naterial, where I try to get up in the tree and then to get down again. The larger image in the middle is what the actual video looks like – a bit too dark, really. The park was nice in any case.
This image, taken by Megan Evans as a still with her phone, is actually quite nicely framed:
A small conference on Cultural Mobility of Performance and Performativity Studies organised in the beautiful old building of the Jagellonian University brought me to Krakow together with the HTDTWP group, that is, the How to do things with performance research project. I did carry my camera, tripod, pink scarf and black trousers with me, with the plan to spend the last day finding a suitable tree. After the conference I felt exhausted and joined Pilvi Porkola and Hanna Järvinen on a walk to the Kantor Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both located other side of the river. And I decided I would NOT carry my equipment with me, ”just in case”. When we were returning to the hotel through the park and passed an elder tree with a low bending trunk that we had passed the day before, I asked Pilvi to take a snapshot of me sitting in the tree. What was meant as a simple souvenir to begin with, nevertheless turned into a small performance recorded on video, with my phone. The transformation from snapshot to ”serious” image making can be seen in the sequence of images, below. What was remarkable, from my perspective, was not so much to have other people with me, nor missing my costume, perhaps not even the use of a simple phone camera, but the idea that somebody else was holding the camera and framing the image. Suddenly I became a performer, a model or an actress for somebody else, even though I suggested that Pilvi might take an ”arlander-style” image from the back side. Later I edited a short video by reversing the order of the three video clips, With and Elder in Krakow (2 min. 6 sec), and uploaded it on the Research Catalogue, here.
Afterwards I thought about it, and realized, this could be one way to develop my practice of sitting in, on or with trees to be something more sociable: to invite people to use the camera, rather than to pose for it, as I have previously tried to do in the swinging together images. Hm. I have to think about that…
After reading a nice little book by Jeffrey T. Nealon, Plant Theory – Biopower and Vegetable Life (2016), which consists of a preface, four chapters (on Foucault, Aristotle & Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze & Guattari and their ideas on vegetation), and a coda What difference does it make? I decided it was time to get out for a change. On the last day of March I followed a walking path on the slopes of the hills east of Puerto Rico on Gran Canaria in order to find some shrubs to sit with. And there were indeed plenty of them. At the bottom of the small valley, where the path crossed something that at some point might have been the bed of a brook I could get off the path, both above and beneath it, and made some attempts at performing for camera. The first image, above the path, is nice as a view, but there I placed myself much too close to the camera and become the main focus of attention:
The second attempt, below the path, is more interesting, because the shrubs are bigger and the branches produce interesting shadows. They are actually two different shrubs, a Tabaiba on the left and a Balo further down on the right, as I later learned:
The third image is perhaps the most fascinating, partly because the Euphorbia or Cardón as they are called here are so peculiar, partly because I managed to place myself more subtly with the plants:
These three images were my first attempts this Easter, oddly yellow in tone. I hope there will be more.
And there was to be more, for sure. On Sunday 1 April I made a new trip to the valley. First I sat with some flowering Tabaibas:
And on the way back I saw a Balo next to a rock providing some inviting shade, in a romantic image I had seen in so many fairy tale illustrations that I simply had to enter it. But too tired I miscalculated the distance, placing the camera much too close:
On Monday 2 April I made a third trip, with the aim of finding some Cardóns, which I remember grew higher up in the valley. And there were plenty of them. But first I sat with a Balo:
The Cardóns are quite amazing when watched closely, parts of them really old and withered, and then some parts growing new shoots directly from their fleshy but spiky trunks. They are not really inviting, but more evoking respect, I would say, hard to make acquaintance with but with a strong character:
Walking down the riverbed I decided I might make one more trip tomorrow to sit with some of the Balos I passed on the way. And in the park on the way back I posed on a bench under a Mimosa tree in order to remind myself to enjoy the places purposely made for humans, too, instead of always insisting on making everything so tiresome and exhausting and unnecessarily complicated:
The wood behind DOCH (Dans och Cirkus högskolan, School of Dance and Circus), where I have my working place these days, is part of Norra Djurgården (The Northern Djurgården Park) but unofficially called Lill-Jansskogen.I have been walking around there, along the various paths, looking for a nice tree to sit in, preferably a pine, but have not had much success in finding a suitable one. The wood is fascinating because it is deliberately left rather feral with lots of dead trees, and the terrain is rather varied as well. After making some excursions in the area I finally decided, on the eve of the Chinese New Year, to just make up a round for myself as near as possible to my base, with some stops on the way, something easy to repeat, if not daily, at least weekly. I wanted to begin a series of images to be repeated during the year of the dog – partly because I had missed the chance to begin at the ordinary new year – and to revisit my actions during the year of the dog twelve years earlier. At that time I was sitting in a pine tree on Harakka Island, lying on the rocks as the shadow of a small pine at the shore and also visiting an old pine tree in Kalvola about 100 km north of Helsinki, hanging from its branch and leaning on its trunk, although only once a month. Some of these works are archived on the research catalogue: Year of the Dog – Sitting in a Tree, Day and Night of the Dog, while all of them are available on the pages of AV-arkki, the Distribution Centre for Finnish Media Art, like Year of the Dog – Sitting in a Tree, Day and Night of the Dog, Year of the Dog in Kalvola – Calendar or Year of the Dog in Kalvola – Calendar 1-2, Shadow of a Pine I-II and Shadow of a Pine I-IV.
Since sitting in a tree, or on a tree or with a tree is the main action I have been engaged with during the first year of my artistic research project Performing with plants, which I am now continuing with in Stockholm, that seemed like an easy choice to go on with. But of course you want to find the right partner if you are going to commit yourself to a collaboration for a whole year. And nothing seemed really inviting or seducing or inspiring in any way. To simply get started I decided to make a try-out, and to begin with the stub of a recently felled old spruce, which had caught my eye during my walks, to sit on the stub as my first stop, and to continue from there. Moreover, I thought I would perhaps make do with some of the small pines on the hill right next to the building, since they were growing conveniently right there. So, the day before new moon I took my camera and chose these four stops.
Sitting with the tragic corpse of the spruce:
Resting in the corner of the fairy tale forest:
Swinging on the branch of an old pine on the hill:
And finally, sitting in, on, with or amongst a small pine by the path:
These four actions and four images, two with spruces and two with pines, are all very different in atmosphere, but I was rather happy with making these choices without further ado. This was a beginning, despite small technical problems, like the attachment part of my microphone being broken, or my memory card not finding the video files and so on. In the evening, in a professional photography shop, they managed to repair the microphone stand and to explain why my card reader did not find the files: I had accidentally recorded them in the wrong format. So, to celebrate the start of the Chinese new year, I decided to change the format I have been recording in to MP4, following the advice I received. This was after all only the first test.
The following sessions I will document on my Stockholm-blog, here. Still images and links will in any case be available on this page of the project site.
The last days of the year are well suited for looking back at what has been done. The year 2017 has been a special one for me, because it is the first year when I have been able to focus on research rather than teaching or administration or the various other duties of a professor. And it has been the first year since a very long time, when I have not been working for University of the Arts, Helsinki. Being a humble post doc researcher now (paradoxically, since my DA is from 1999) at a prestigious establishment like HCAS (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies) has been a real pleasure. I have also travelled a lot, however, strangely busy with all kinds of other duties that I have both enjoyed and felt obliged to take on now when I had more time, such as the board of NARP (Norwegian Artistic Research Program), or TJNK, the Committee for public information in Finland, or the board for Public Display Grants for Visual Arts, or evaluation of international post-doc grant applications for Vetenskapsrådet, the Swedish Research Council, or grant applications for Formas and so on, besides my ordinary duties on the editorial board of JAR (Journal for Artistic Research). When I list them like this they feel too much!
Most of my time I have nevertheless been able to devote to performing with plants, that is, visiting the two trees in Helsinki and in Stockholm that I have chosen to sit with repeatedly during this year, as a beginning of sorts. Travelling back and forth to Stockholm twice a month has been expensive and tiring, too, but also enjoyable. If I think of what I have really been doing during this year, those visits to the trees and all the blog posts related to them are probably the main results that remain. Most of the material is collected onto the Research catalogue, on the project website. I have also edited old videos and written quite a lot, nothing new or interesting, rather like finishing old texts.
A lot of time and energy has been spent on the research project HTDTWP (How to do things with performance), with Hanna Jörvinen, Tero Nauha and Pilvi Porkola, and most of my conference travels have been with them, as well as most of the challenges and the funny things, too. Although my focus in that project is on the old series mad on Harakka Island, Animal Years, and what could be done with that today, I have been able to combine some of the presentations with performing with plants. But for the most part I have been working on texts and publications based on previous work and older material. One example is the book for Routledge that we have edited together, Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude, Ben Spatz and me Performance as Research: Knowledge, Methods, Impact. That is something I am really proud of, I must say.
This has been an extraordinary year in terms of artistic work as well, with two private exhibitions. The Tide in Kan Tiang was shown in Mediaboxi in the spring, Cami de Cavalls in the former telegraph on Harakka Island in summer, and Once again – video works from Harakka Island and Lake Kilpis at Muu gallery in the autumn. But all these exhibitions showed old works. The only one that I count as performing with plants is The Tide, because there I am really standing together with a small tree.
The most special thing this year was that I was allowed to and supposed to focus on my research, instead of doing it as a hobby on the side, and to devote myself to artistic work as the core of that research. But did I accomplish more, then? Probably the month of September that I spent in residency in Nida Arts Colony was the most productive time. I have produced quite a lot of small videos all through the year, not all of a very good quality, or exciting, though. The tree calendar, choosing one tree in the Helsinki area each month, following the Celtic tree calendar, was the only new thing. I wrote about it for the HCAS blog. New was also the idea to make video essays by combining old video materials inserted into a contemporary image of the same site and adding an academic or semi-academic text as a voice over. That is something I plan to continue with, as part of the project How to do things with performance. But what about performing with plants?
None of the articles published this year actually deals with the project Performing with plants, although I have listed “Practising art – as a habit? / Att utöva konst – som en vana?”, which appeared in Ruukku Journal #7, on the project website, because trees play the main part in the works I write about there. Most articles are related to previous projects or to more general concerns, but I am nevertheless proud to list them here below (the ones with * are peer-reviewed). Several articles are about to be published soon, some of them were supposed to appear this year, but I have listed only those that are officially available now. Many talks and conference papers, however, that I presented during the year were related to performing with plants. They are listed separately here below, before other talks.
My immediate impulse when looking back at what I have done is to think of everything that remains to be done and to start planning for next year, but that would be another story.
Exhibitions and screenings:
Once Again – video works from Harakka Island and Lake Kilpis. Muu Gallery, Helsinki 7.10.-12.11.2017.
Audiences Swinging Together, participatory performance, Nordic Performance Art – Reaching a New Audience, Munkemose, Odense 1.9.2017.
Year of the Snake – Swinging (mini) at performance art festival MEETINGS by ET4U, Contemporary visual art projects – Mid & Western Jutland, Skaerum, Mölle on 1.9. 2017.
Cami de Cavalls. Telegraph of Harakka 26.7.-6.8.2017.
The Tide in Kan Tiang, Fringe Arts Bath Festival 26.5.-11.6.2017
Solsidan 1-4, Art fair Suomi Helsinki 25-28.5.2017.
Year of the Rat Upphill-Downhill, Me: Self-portraits Through Time Kunsthalle Helsinki 27.5.-6.8.2017.
Year of the Horse – On Rock and Wood, LiikKUVAT Pitkäniemi Hospital Tampere 31.3.-30.7.2017.
The Tide in Kan Tiang in Mediaboxi in Gallery Forum Box 1.4.-23.4.2017.
— “Agential Cuts and Performance as Research”. In Annette Arlander, Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude, Ben Spatz (eds.) Performance as Research: Knowledge, Methods, Impact. London and New York: Routledge 2018, 133-151.
— “Introduction to Future Concerns”. In Annette Arlander, Bruce Barton, Melanie Dreyer-Lude, Ben Spatz (eds.) Performance as Research: Knowledge, Methods, Impact. London And New York: Routledge 2018, 333-349.
* — “Maisema, materia ja muutos. Harakan saaren luontokulttuuria dokumentoimassa.” [Landscape, Matter and Change. Documenting the Natureculture of Harakka Island] In Mari Mäkiranta, Ulla Piela and Eija Timonen (eds.) Näkyväksi sepitetty maa. [The Land Narrated Visible] Kalevalaseuran vuosikirja 96. Helsinki: SKS 2017, 23-39.
* — “Practising art – as a habit? / Att utöva konst – som en vana?” In Ruukku Journal #7.2017.
— “Data, Material, Remains”. In Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, Teija Löytönen & Mark Tesar (eds.) Disrupting Data in Qualitative Inquiry. Entanglements with the Post-Critical and Post-Anthropocentric. Peter Lang Publishing 2017, 171-182.
— “Four Workshops – Four Approaches to Performance Art”, in Pilvi Porkola (ed.) Performance Artist’s Work Book. On teaching and learning performance art – essays and exercises. University of the Arts Helsinki, Theatre Academy and New Performance Turku 2017, 33-47.
— “Artistic Research as a Speculative Practice” JAR (Journal for Artistic research) network.
—- “A few words”, introduction to Icehole #6 2017, The Live Art Journal.
—- “How to do things with repetition?” video with text, Icehole #6 2017, The Live Art Journal.
Talks and presentations related to Performing with plants:
— “Performing with plants – presentation, process, archive”, at the symposium on artistic research organized by the Swedish Research Council at Stockholm University of the Arts 28-29.11.2017.
— “Performing with Plants”, presentation and screening at the public seminar in Helsinki University Think Corner (Tiedekulma) 14.11.2017.
— “Performing with Plants”, presentation and workshop at Transversality in Performance, Doctoral Symposium at the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts at University of Gothenburg 9-10.10.2017.
— “Between Sea and Sky – With a Tree”, talk at the seminar Between Sky and Sea: Tourist, organised by Performance Art Bergen in Kvalnes, Lofoten 18.7.2017.
— “Resting with the Pines in Nida”, at the seminar “With Plants”, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies 27.10. 2017.
— “Performing with Plants” installation at Colloquium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts, CARPA 5 Perilous Experience? Extending Experience Through Artistic Research at University of the Arts Helsinki, Theatre Academy 31.8.2017.
— “How to do things by performing with plants” in the panel organised by the research project How to Do Things with Performance at the IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research) conference Unstable Geographies – Multiple Theatricalities in Sao Paulo 10-14.7.2007.
— “Performing with trees?” introduction with screening of The Tide in Kan Tiang as part of the workshop organised by How to do things with performance? at Sao Paulo Escola del Teatro 6.7.2017.
— “How to do things with performance – Performing with plants (first attempts)” in the Artistic Research Working Group at PSI#23 Overflow (Performance Studies International conference) in Hamburg June 8-11.2017.
— “Performing with Plants” in Plantarium: Re-imagining green futurities, at Linköping University 1-2.6.2017.
— “Performing with plants”, project presentation at seminar “Working with Plants” Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies 3.5.2017.
— “Performing with Plants”, presentation of the project at the Brown bag seminar at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies on 25.4.2017.
Other talks and presentations:
— “Open archiving as a strategy in artistic research – two examples”, at Autumn Day of the Finnish Society for Theatre Research, Theatre Museum, 13.11.2017.
— “The Cliff Revisited”, at the Research Day organised by the research project How to do Things with Performance, University of the Arts Helsinki, Theatre Academy, 8.11.2017.
— Presentation with the research project “How to do things with performance?” at the post doc seminar of Performing Arts Research Centre, University of the Arts Helsinki, Theatre Academy 26.10.2017.
— “The Shore revisited”, presentation with “How to do things with performance?” research project at New Performance Turku Festival 7.10.2017.
— “Audiences Swinging Together”, presentation at the seminar organised by Nordic Performance Art – Reaching a New Audience in Munkemose, Odense on Friday 1.9.2017.
— Presentation in “Liminal Stages – Artistic Research and Art With(in) Research” during Aboagora, Sibelius Museum, Turku 23.8.2017.
— “Accessing Performance” – a two-day event organized together with Hanna Järvinen, Pilvi Porkola and Tero Nauha, Camino Events at the Artistic Research Pavillion in Venice 17-18.5.2017.
— “What is Given?” a workshop together with Tero Nauha, Hanna järvinen and Pilvi Porkola at the SAR (Society for Artistic Research) conference Please Specify! in Helsinki 28-29.4.2017.
— Presentation in a panel on authorship and agency in “Ei-inhimillinen seminaari” [Non-human seminar] organised by Reality Research Centre 27-28.5.2017
— Presentation in a panel at “The Avantgarde Today” (in Finnish) organised by FAM (Finnish Avantgarde and Modernism network), 20.4.2017.
— “Artistic Research and/as interdisciplinarity – Swinging Together”. Lecture for choreography students at University of the Arts Theatre Academy 16.1.2017.
Today was the first time I took the camera with me, although I was not sure if I would have the possibility to stop and use it other than for snapshots. Luckily I did. While the group of elderly Spanish couples strolled on the Cofete beach or on the shore near the Puertito de La Cruz or Punta de Jandia, I could pose for the camera with some of the shrubs. The beautiful cacti-looking plants, Cardón de Jandia, whose preservation is one of the main reasons for the Jandia peninsula being a natural park, were only growing on the northern slopes, far from any viewpoints or parking lots. But I am happy with these small attempts, anyway. Unfortunately I do not know the names of the spiky grey shrubs that I sat with, and that grow everywhere in the desert around here, nor of the succulent type of shrub that is also common. (See images below) Information on the web is hard to find, but something, here. I edited all three attempts into short videos of a little more than seven minutes each, although the last one was a little too close, not very interesting as an image. Actually only the first one, from Cofete beach, is ok, I think. I tried to upload small files onto the Research Catalogue, but the internet connection is not very stable, so it might be impossible. At some point they will be available here. Some images of the shrubs, to give an idea:
This afternoon, three o’clock, at sunset, I went to visit the trees in Kaivopuisto Park for one last time. The reason for ending this year so early, is a holiday trip which will bring me back only after New Year. My visits have not been that regular, anyway, sometimes only once a week, sometimes twice or three times. And there have been breaks for travels. I have been sitting on and with a group of elm trees up on the hill, with a view overlooking Harakka Island, Uunisaari and the strait Uuninsuu between them. And I have also sat on the stub of an alder on the other side of the park.
These visits to the trees in Helsinki are documented as video stills on the Research Catalogue, on a separate page, here. (Scroll down the page for the last images). Yesterday I did my last visits to the trees in Stockholm as well, and they are documented in a similar manner in the same exposition, on another page, here. The actual material recorded of all these visits is moving images, videos, and they will be edited into rough time-lapse videos later. Now I am more concetned with the shock of how quickly time passes; one year is not that long, really.
Next year I will spend more time in Stockholm, and will probably not choose any trees to visit in Helsinki. There are my house plants to take care of, however, both at home and in my studio on Harakka Island and they are the plants I am performing with daily. I am not posing for camera with them (except the ivy, once), nor thinking of our living together that much, unless they get ill or seem to suffer somehow. They are my “house gnomes”, “hustomtar” in Swedish or “kotitonttuja” in Finnish; they demand that I return home to take care of their basic needs. But they seem to thrive without my presence, too. I probably give them too much water, sometimes…
In the wake of independence day celebrations, sitting in the snowy Park, I thought of how much harder the winter mornings must have been without our modern comforts. Independent or dependent, well. I remember Karen Finley giving a public performance lecture at Theatre Academy many years ago and speaking of her work within the dependent cinema, because that is what the so-called independent cinema of course is, dependent on all kinds of factors, like the enthusiasm of its makers. And the same things goes for many fields. This came to mind because of the 100 years independence festivities yesterday. There is much to celebrate in our 100 years of independence, including the right to vote for women etc. but that does not mean we cannot acknowledge our total dependence of so many things, among them the trees. The Swedish language local newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet had a series of articles on the major factors in the shaping of Finland and the first, the absolutely most important one, they suggested was the forest!
On Friday the world had changed again, rain, rain, drizzle and rain again. Around 1 pm when I went out the rain had stopped for a while but the wind was strong. Using a rock in a plastic bag as a weight kept the tripod standing, but the wind shook the camera and made it slide to the left, a funny panning movement. I decided to be content with that, perhaps it adds some documentary feel. And the mud! Rotting leaves and wet soil, uh. But then I remembered that these were one of my last visits to the trees. Next week I will visit them once more, or perhaps twice, but that is all. A holiday trip takes me away from Helsinki for the end of the year, so my last visits will take place at mid December.
What to do with the material, how to edit it, will be something to think about after Christmas. It is of course possible to make time-lapse videos with fairly short clips like twenty seconds each, or so, and also to try to synchronise the same images with and without the human figure, as I have done before. What I thought of when beginning the visits and recording my sitting with the elms from two distances, was of course creating a two-channel installation with both versions synchronised. But since there is quite a lot of material, around five minutes of each session, I could also try extra long cross fades to see what that could give…
The Tree calendar, my “hobby” during this year, I finished last week, with the last tree, an elder, in the same park as my “ordinary” trees. For the HCAS blog, or Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, where I have spent this year, I wrote a summary of sorts about the calendar, including a map of the trees I visited for the calendar, here. But those trees I of course visited only once each of them, unlike the elms and the alder stub that I have come to know quite well after visiting them a few times a week for a year now…
For the last performance in my Tree Calendar (working title) I planned to look for an elder somewhere in the eastern part of Helsinki, which I hardly know compared to the central or western areas. Searching on-line I found a mention of an elder (Sambucus nigra) in Kivikko near a dog park, and aimed to go there after visiting the trees in Kaivopuisto which I have visited regularly this year. While there, I remembered the red-berried elder (Sambucus racemosa) up on the hill, which i have passed so many times, and decided to try if I could find a suitable framing of that one. The day was rather cold, which meant that finally the snow stayed on the ground, instead of immediately turning into water. The landscape looked great, and everybody else seemed to have notices that, too. The park was full of people jogging or walking their dogs, enjoying the fresh air after days of rain. And they all wanted to follow the path next to the elder, so they ended in my video. The passers-by fire prominently in the images, because I am – for once – barely visible sitting on the low branches of the elder, partly covered by the cliff. I made an other session standing next to the elder, leaning on it lightly, just in case. Both videos, Elder in December 1 (13 min. 38 sec.) and Elder in December 2 (8 min. 59 sec.) are available on the Research Catalogue, here.
The Elder is the tree of the thirteenth month in the ancient lunar Tree calendar of the Celts and the dates for the month of the elder are, according to the source I have used, 24 November to 23 December. There is something fascinating in the idea of naming a calendar after trees, and you would expect there to be some connection to the time of year that tree would be particularly beautiful or useful, blooming or breaking fruit etc. But I have not really found much connections, perhaps because the climate is different here in the north. The elder is connected to death and renewal, and in that sense suitable for endings as well. Perhaps I will create another tree calendar in Stockholm next year…